REVIEW

Wagyu Kaiseki Den

One of the manifold mysteries of the Michelin Guide is the way in which they promiscuously award stars to mediocre Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong while passing over or underestimating far superior Japanese ones.   In the 2013 guide, Inakaya, Sushi Ta-Ke, Inagiku, Sushi Hiro, Aqua Tokyo, Sushi Sase and Nobu are all overlooked, yet are better than the majority of the restaurants awarded stars.   Meanwhile, Sushi Shikon and Ryu Gin both have two Michelin stars in Hong Kong, yet their original locations in Tokyo received three. It is therefore significant that Wagyu Kaiseki Den was the first Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong to be recognized with a star.

The imposing rectangular door next to the Central Park Hotel stands like a sentinel yet dutifully slides aside at the push of a button.  Inside is a black-on-black design schema that foregrounds the spotlit open kitchen like a stage.  Around it are seated 8 guests at a chef’s counter, with a private dining room nearby.  The back walls of the kitchen showcase private refrigerated lockers in which regulars and tycoons store cuts of beef.

The only option is a 10 course menu, which features modern Kaiseki cuisine (modern in that it uses luxury ingredients like caviar and truffles), the most salient aspect of which is the namesake Wagyu beef from Kagoshima.  It was served in two varieties: three pieces of marbled tenderloin with sea salt and two pieces of sirloin marinated in sweet soy.  After sprinkling the beef with sea salt and dipping it into a black truffle and honey sauce, I was thrust into reverential silence. I cannot recall a more earth-shattering steak.

But back to the beginning: the first few courses struck me principally for their balance and harmony:  a cold beancurd with sea urchin, wasabi, okura and sweet corn soup; a braised lobster with snap pea, stem of taro, kinome herb and ginger sauce; and a pike eel with matsutake mushroom, water shield and yuzu citrus clear soup.  A largely very fine sashimi selection followed, with outstanding sea bream, toro and lobster with sea salt.  An excellent course of eel served on sushi rice and eggplant stuffed with minced shrimp and a sweet egg follows.  And the meal ends with an interesting combination of sea urchin and truffle rice, which the staff graciously provided a second helping of after we, in increasing desperation to satiate our hunger towards the end of the meal, began looking around forlornly after the bowl emptied.   The service as a whole was generally excellent and highly observant.

It must be said that the wine and sake is obscenely priced, and the offensively truncated by-the-glass availability leaves you with only 1 or 2 options.  It is strongly suggested that you bring your own and pay the $400HKD corkage fee.

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INFORMATION

Sheung Wan
263 Hollywood Road
+852 2851-2820
    Hiroyuki Saotome, Chef

    TAGS

    • Hong Kong
    • Japanese
    • Kaiseki
    • Sashimi/Sushi
    • Best Service
    • BYOB Corkage Fee: $400HKD
    • Private Dining Room Private Dining Room

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